The Houston Roughnecks continued their hot start to the XFL season, defeating the Dallas Renegades (2-2), 27-20, to improve to 4-0 and stay atop the standings as the league’s only unbeaten team.
A sluggish first quarter for both the Roughnecks and Renegades saw two field goals and some lackluster play by quarterback P.J. Walker — arguably the XFL’s brightest talent — on Houston’s side and Dallas QB Landry Jones throw three terrible-looking interceptions.
From that point on, though, the gloves came off and this one got going.
After Walker kicked off the second with a 6-yard touchdown pass to receiver Nick Holley and completed the three-point attempt to give Houston a 15-0 lead, Jones shook off his struggles on Dallas’ third series and led a TD drive of his own, which he capped with a two-point conversion.
A Dallas FG, another Walker TD strike and a 1-yard plunge from Renegades running back Lance Dunbar, punctuated by a three-point conversion, set the stage for an exciting fourth, with Houston clinging to a 21-20 lead at the end of the third.
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On the Dallas 24, Jones dropped back and was almost immediately strip-sacked by Roughnecks linebacker Edmond Robinson. The 28-year-old Robinson, who was a seventh-round pick of the Vikings in 2015, scooped up the loose ball and hurried it into the endzone for a 12-yard score. A timely stat-sheet trifecta, to say the least.
A Dallas three-and-out gave Houston a chance to put the game further out of reach but it was Dallas’ defense that stepped up to make an important play on third and nine, courtesy of safety Micah Abernathy sacking Walker, who slipped shortly after taking the snap, for a loss of six.
After the punt return brought them to their own 21, the Renegades looked to rally with eight minutes to go. Until disaster struck, in the form of Jones, playing in his third game after a knee injury held him out of Week 1, went down. The former Oklahoma QB had been wearing a knee brace on his injured left knee, which he re-injured on the play.
A noticeably emotional Jones watched from the sidelines for the remainder as his backup, Philip Nelson, tried his best to complete the comeback. But it was to no avail, as Houston registered its fourth INT of the afternoon after LB DeMarquis Gates came away with the heads-up play on a tipped pass on the HOU 3.
Despite the inefficient start, it was more highlight-worthy football from Walker, whose standout moment this week came on a gutsy 15-yard run that saw him lower his left shoulder — non-throwing, by the way — and plow through a defender. He turned in a 25-of-41, 239-yard, two-TD day, and had two turnovers (INT, sack).
Holley, a favorite target of Walker’s, led all receivers with 97 yards and a score on eight catches. For the defense, Robinson (four tackles, strip-sack, TD) and LB Beniquez Brown (nine tackles, pass deflection) led the charge. As a whole, Houston totaled 10 passes defensed and five tackles for a loss.
Dallas was 2-0 with Jones in the lineup prior to today’s loss. Before having his day devastatingly ended, the 2013 fourth-round pick registered 205 yards (25-of-38), one TD and four turnovers. Receiver Flynn Nagel caught all six of his targets for 76 yards while Dunbar tallied a game-high 48 rush yards and a TD.
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